East Tennessee
Alan Rossi


The move to the mountains unsettled them. Rains halted in their valley, clouds low and smoky. Their house remained box-ridden and white. His mother's house was near again, so he helped with syringes, blood levels, food. His mother ate dinner with them. Give him more room to eat, please, his mother said to her.


He stared at the boxes, living room and kitchen. The note he left said he was going into the mountains with a tent and packets of ramen. Really, he was going to pick a direction, East 67, West 67, North 321, and drive until his half a tank ran out, hoping she would worry all day. Instead of driving, he stopped at his mother's house to say hello and stayed for coffee. He waited till dark. Then he called home and said, Do you want me to pick up dinner?


He was at work. His mother knocked, walked past her into the kitchen, potted flowers in hand. His mother wiped a finger through dust, unboxed boxes, not as sick as she wished. When his mother left, she broke the pot on purpose, though she claimed it was an accident. He got home and found the remains on the porch. The mountains were out there, too, looming like walls. He told her he wouldn't be content being blue. She said that was too bad because it was the way she preferred to be. That is too bad, he said. Then she told him she broke the pot on purpose. I know, he said. That's your nature. It's okay, she said. I'll clean it up.


They yelled viciously one night, anger well-rehearsed. Everyone in the valley heard.


It got dark. The mountains disappeared. Some people came to their house then left. He wanted them to stay all night or wanted to leave with them. He didn't know how to make either happen. Empty beer bottles sat on tables and counters, then clinked together in her hands. His lips felt chapped and she brought him lip balm. It rained, which sounded like leaves scraping the ground. There may have been wind, there may have been leaves scraping the ground. He asked her to open a window and she opened a window.